December 17 - 23, 2006

This column will provide links to, plus quotes and summaries of, on-line articles that might be of interest to the Infidel community. Because is concerned with educational issues, the articles selected will help to inform and enlighten readers as well as entertain them. In order to conform to "fair use practices," only small segments of the articles will be quoted. One caveat: to read the entire linked article, readers may have to subscribe to on-line versions of newspapers or magazines.

It seems like "news of the weird" week, beginning with a story first reported in the Washington Post, about Billy Graham's kids trying to bury their old man and their mother in a faux dairy barn, sporting a big cross and "Disneyland" cows. It's almost unbelievable. Here is the original story, from the Washington Post:

MONTREAT, N.C. -- It is a struggle worthy of the Old Testament, pitting brother against brother, son against mother, and leaving the famous father, the Rev. Billy Graham, trapped in the middle, pondering what to do. [...]

But at this moment everyone's attention is on the visitor, crime novelist Patricia Cornwell, who is talking about a memorial "library" that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, headed by Franklin, is building in Charlotte. Cornwell toured the building site and saw the proposed burial plot. She was asked by Ned, who opposes Franklin's choice, to come and give his father her impression.

"I was horrified by what I saw," she tells Billy, in the presence of a reporter invited to be there.

The building, designed in part by consultants who used to work for the Walt Disney Co., is not a library, she says, but a large barn and silo -- a reminder of Billy Graham's early childhood on a dairy farm near Charlotte. Once it's completed in the spring, visitors will pass through a 40-foot-high glass entry cut in the shape of a cross and be greeted by a mechanical talking cow. They will follow a path of straw through rooms full of multimedia exhibits. At the end of the tour, they will be pointed toward a stone walk, also in the shape of a cross, that leads to a garden where the bodies of Billy and Ruth Graham could lie.

Read the full Washington Post story here...

And another story from the Post, about the strictly orthodox rabbis who attended Iran's Holocaust Deniers conference:

NEW YORK -- They sent congratulatory telegrams to Hamas, their rabbis advised Yasser Arafat (and took a fee for their trouble), and they stood outside the White House wagging signs -- "Judaism Has No Right to Rule over ANY PART of the Holy Land" -- to protest a November visit by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

But even by the standards of Neturei Karta, these most ultra of ultra-orthodox Jewish Hasids took a step into the world of the very strange, if not the meshuga, or crazy, when they showed up as honored guests at a conference of Holocaust skeptics and deniers in Tehran. With a hug and a smile for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rabbi Aharon Cohen walked into a conference room with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, discredited academics, and more than a few white supremacists and served up a rousing welcome speech.

Read the full story here...

Sacred signs continue to be spotted in food, according to an LA Times report that also cites reasons for these odd interpretations of the ordinary:

The wonder, believers said, appeared in a chunk of chocolate.

A worker arriving at a Fountain Valley candy factory saw it in a sugary glob at the mixing vat's spout: an amazing likeness of the Virgin Mary standing in prayer.

"It's absolutely a miracle," said Jacinto Santacruz, a 26-year-old Roman Catholic who in August discovered the 2 1/2 -inch-tall statue at Bodega Chocolates. [...]

From a scientific perspective, the phenomenon is so common that it has been given a name: pareidolia, the perception of patterns where none are intended. And according to Stewart Guthrie, one of a handful of professors who have studied it, such perceptions are part of the way human beings are "hard-wired."

Read the complete LA Times story here...

An opinion column in the Miami Herald is a rallying cry for human rights in the U.S: "My freedom linked to others -- including gays," By Leonard Pitts, Jr. Pitts answers an email harasser, who harps on the columnist's support for gays.

If from that you conclude (or fear) you're about to read a stirring defense of my manly male masculinity, no. The guy is free to believe what he wishes; I really don't care. And here, let me digress to confess that, though I refer to him using masculine pronouns, I actually don't know if he's a he because his notes have been anonymous. Still, I assume it's a guy because the level of sexual insecurity the e-mails suggest strikes me as -- boy, am I going to get in trouble for this -- rather guy-specific.

Anyway, to get back to the point, I'm not here to argue sexuality. I just find myself intrigued by the idea that if you're not gay, you shouldn't care about gay rights.

The most concise answer I can give is cribbed from what a white kid said some 40 or so years ago, as white college students were risking their lives to travel south and register black people to vote. Somebody asked why. He said he acted from an understanding that his freedom was bound up with the freedom of every other man.

Read the full Pitts article here...

Increasing data about the effects of global warming, from the San Francisco Chronicle:

In the heart of the anise swallowtail territory near the California-Oregon border, researcher Jessica Hellmann and a couple of graduate students chased butterflies this past spring. Jumping over bushes and dodging wildflowers, Hellmann snapped her nylon net over a velvety swallowtail perched on a lomatium, a wild relative of parsley.

Hellmann, 32, an assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame, was trying to learn what the swallowtail and another butterfly, the Propertius duskywing, can tell us about the effects of climate change on species. The goal is to find what characteristics -- such as body size, breadth of diet and ability to relocate -- indicate a species' chances for survival.

"Which ones do we need to worry about?" she asked.

Hellman was one of the first scientists to link global warming to the disappearance of a butterfly population -- the bay checkerspot on Jasper Ridge in Palo Alto.

Read the full Chronicle article here...

And from the same newspaper, a report about Al Gore's attempts to counter the anti-science trends in the Bush administration, and to raise money for alternative energy projects:

Former Vice President Gore, presidential candidate turned climate crusader, spoke at the annual meeting of the world's largest scientific society, the American Geophysical Union.

He urged scientists to communicate the climate crisis "in ways that arouse appropriate alarm that can motivate changes in behavior.'' [...]

He appeared at the Commonwealth Club later Thursday afternoon with a panel including Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is chairwoman-elect of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; Duke Energy CEO Paul Anderson; and Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider. The experts, along with venture capitalists Vinod Khosla and Dan Reicher, discussed ways to curb carbon dioxide emissions with Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club.

Click here to read the full article...

The Talk of Lawrence